Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
The accuser, the satan, has words for Jesus. As we know, “the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Prov. 18:21). The Word made flesh is about to be addressed, with words, by the supreme liar of the universe.
It is important to note here that many scholars believe that Jesus was not speaking to a physical manifestation of the devil (like medieval images might suggest), but rather to the enemy of our souls who speaks to us—including you and me—through thoughts that enter our heads and impressions that create fear, anxiety, distress, and demonic experiences for each one of us.
New Testament scholar N. T. Wright puts it this way: “The story does not envisage Jesus engaged in conversation with a visible figure to whom he could talk as one to another; the devil’s voice appears as a string of natural ideas in his own head. They are plausible, attractive, and make, as we would say, a lot of sense.”1 In other words, the devil was speaking to Jesus in the same way the devil speaks to us—in ways that make us think we ourselves are coming up with the ideas being planted.
This is not to diminish the reality of the evil spirit, the devil, in any way. It is rather to suggest that our images of an ugly little creature on our shoulder, or appearing in a dark corner to tempt us, may be far less biblical than simply traditional interpretations carried to us by paintings and images from extrabiblical sources.
In my own journey, connected to some painful experiences in my childhood, I have experienced seasons of overtly demonic dreams. I have also experienced moments of profound deliverance, and my dreams have been affected in a positive way.
To ignore the devil as the source of the voice that encourages us to forget who and whose we are, to want to act out in unholy anger, retain bitterness, entertain shame, shame others, and even to take our own precious lives (or regard ourselves as useless), is to welcome our own destruction.
The satan, the adversary, spoke to Jesus. And Jesus spoke back, using the written Word of God as his answers. This leads us to an important insight for us. Jesus chose to use the Word of God, hidden in his heart for such a time as this, to respond to the attacking words of the enemy.
The importance of memorizing, meditating on, and hiding the Word of God in our hearts cannot be overstated—you will need it during a battle for your heart yet to come. I have had moments when I was at the very end of my rope, wanting to give up completely and to check myself into an institution. Perhaps you have had similar “end of yourself” moments. In those times, sometimes in the middle of a dark night of the soul, the Word of God has been on my tongue and has been the right, powerful word to silence the voice of the evil one.
Jesus had the same enemy we do, and the stakes were high in the wild for Jesus—and for us. Know that the enemy has something to say about your life and will manipulate your thoughts and feelings to get his evil point across: that you are worthless and unloved.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Any voice that speaks to you and tells you that you are worthless is hideously demonic at the root—and is the opposite of the loving blessing the Father speaks over your life.
Like Jesus, let’s answer with the enduring Word of God when the devil speaks.
Lord of the Wild, we realize that there is a battle raging all around us, and the enemy of our soul is planning to devour us—often doing so with words spoken into our minds and hearts. We recognize the presence and work of the enemy and address that evil voice that we might move forward in freedom in you. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Have you ever experienced a voice in your head or heart, or even through another person, that was dehumanizing and devaluing? How did you address it, and did you come out believing God’s Word over the word of the devil?
For the Awakening,
N. T. Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, 2004), 43.